Monday, May 23, 2011

Credibility Issues Discredit Thrillers

If you’re trying to save money but are still hooked on new books, here’s a pair you can easily avoid – or wait until they come out in paperback.

While both titles have many suspenseful moments and deal with sibling relations, each suffers from credibility problems.

“Come and Find Me” by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow, $24.99) is the latest release by the author of “Never Tell a Lie”. She’s also produced “Writing and Selling your Mystery Novel”, so I had high hopes. Wrong!

Her latest writing effort focuses on Diana Highsmith, a former computer hacker who is now, ironically, specializing in computer security.

Diana’s still recovering from the death of Daniel, her lover and business partner, fifteen months earlier, in a Swiss mountain-climbing accident. She is suffering from a severe anxiety disorder and doesn’t want to leave her house.

When her sister Ashley mysteriously disappears, Diana tries to find her, nervously leaving her intense world of cyberspace to face outside reality.

While plot twists abound, astute crime novel fans should easily be able to predict at least one major piece of the puzzle.

Ephron’s odd suspense tale does reach a satisfying conclusion, but the main surprise is how long Diana takes to figure out what’s really going on.

“Devious” by Lisa Jackson (Kensington, $25) slowly builds tension as it develops an overly complicated plot.

Set in New Orleans, Jackson’s thriller is the latest starring police detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya. They’re called in to investigate the brutal death of a young nun, Sister Camille, inside St. Marguerite’s cathedral.

Montoya’s due for a shock - in the first of too many co-incidences - he dated Camille in high school. She’s the sister of Valerie Houston, a conflicted former cop who’s returned to New Orleans to help run a bed and breakfast location.

There are only a few possible suspects, but more questions arise when it’s discovered that the murdered nun was pregnant. Valerie gets assistance from Slade, her soon-to- be ex-husband; another nun is murdered and the action intensifies.

Jackson’s dark tale has carefully crafted touches of romance but also offers insights into a nasty killer’s motivation. Credibility is stretched beyond a breaking point as more facts emerge. Although it’s highly atmospheric, this novel would work better if an editor had lopped off about 100 pages.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on May 22, 2011.


Sunday, May 1, 2011


"In Stitches" by Anthony Youn with Alan Eisenstock (Gallery Books, $25) is a funny memoir from one of the country's best-known plastic surgeons.

This isn't a gossipy book about who got the latest nip-and-tuck procedure or what actress had too much work done - instead it's a fascinating look at what forces shaped the career of a prominent expert.

It focuses on the challenges faced by Anthony Youn, a Korean-American who grew up in the small town of Greenville, near Grand Rapids.

His strict father, an OB-GYN specialist, had high hopes for Youn and his brother, but as a nerd with Coke-bottle glasses, Anthony had difficulties adjusting. Having a protruding jaw that required surgery didn't make his life any easier.

After high school, Youn attended Kalamazoo College, then went to Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine. A major part of Youn's book is devoted to his eye-opening experiences on and off campus.

Youn and his roommates party heartily and diligently seek romantic conquests, but also study a lot. They're trying to figure out what their specialty should be in the field of medicine.

Deciding that he didn't want to follow in his father's footsteps was an easy choice.

Youn's challenges multiply - further studies take him to Grand Rapids and Springfield, Ill.

His experiences as a medical intern showcase many inside details of hospital procedures that patients don't really think about. He also explores burnout and overworking issues.

"In Stitches" is a fast-paced, mesmerizing autobiography that's laced with dark humor and memorable scenes, including his discovery that a woman he's dating works as a carnival fire-eater.

It's fun to follow Youn's growth from a geeky nerd to a well-respected member of society. There are many classic confrontations between Youn and his hard-working, well-meaning, highly concerned parents.

The prominent board-certified plastic surgeon has offices in Troy. He has received national exposure as a frequent television guest on the Rachael Ray Show and the CBS Early Show, among others.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on May 1, 2011.